Seth Wenig/AP

Senate Confirms Loretta Lynch as Attorney General

Lynch will become the first African-American woman to lead the Justice Department.

The Senate voted 56-to-43 to confirm Loretta Lynch on Thursday, five months after President Obama announced his nomination to replace Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general.

Forty-four Democrats and two independents voted in support of Lynch, while 10 Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell crossed party lines to back confirmation. Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, and Rob Portman also voted for Lynch. 

Obama quickly applauded the confirmation. "Loretta's confirmation ensures that we are better positioned to keep our communities safe, keep our nation secure, and ensure that every American experiences justice under the law," the president said in a statement. 

Lynch will become the 83rd attorney general and the first African-American woman to take the reins at the Justice Department. Her nomination has been mired in debate over immigration and was held up for weeks when the Senate found itself stuck on legislation to curb human-trafficking amid a fight over abortion-related language.

Democrats have vocally supported Lynch and seized on the delay to accuse Republican leadership of slow-walking the nomination to spite the president. 

"What should have been a quick confirmation will be anything but that," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday on the floor. "Her nomination dragged on, has dragged on, for months."

"Doesn't get any uglier than this," Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said ahead of confirmation. "It doesn't matter if you are one of the most qualified nominees for attorney general in the history of our country. ... We have a new test. You must disagree with the president who nominates you."

Republicans have pushed back, warning that Lynch will uphold Obama's executive action on immigration, which could temporarily shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

2016 Republican presidential candidate and Senator Ted Cruz strongly criticized Lynch's nomination on Thursday, but was absent from the final vote. 

"We are sadly going to see more and more lawlessness, more recklessness, more abuse of power," Cruz said ahead of the vote, sounding alarm over the impending confirmation and calling for an attorney general who will "stand up to the president."

A spokeswoman for the senator defended his absence on Twitter, pointing to the senator's opposition to a cloture vote earlier in the day that ultimately advanced the nomination.

Rachel Roubein contributed to this article.